The work and expertise that OLIP brings to our community is so important as it helps us to build bridges and break down silos.  I look forward to our continued work together. 

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
The target beneficiary of the work of OLIP is the whole community. In this short period we have planted together important seeds for Ottawa’s development.  

Dick Stewart
OLIP Council
The OLIP Council is committed to leadership.  In only a few years, we have a common vision and priorities, and are up to the task of implementing the Ottawa Immigration Strategy.

Salimatou Diallo
OLIP Council Vice Chair, Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario
I’m really impressed with the level of energy and commitment around the Health and Wellbeing table and look forward to continuing collaboration between OLIP and OPH.

Marcela Tapia
Ottawa Public Health
All the WOW events that I went to were great – WOW does give a sense of a community trying to improve its attraction and retention!

Caroline Andrew
Professor, University of Ottawa
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre
OLIP helps to unite and share scarce resources for greater impact by working together in the field of student education.

Walter Piovesan
Associate Director of Education, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
In our city’s history, immigrants have always played an important role. They build our economic prosperity, diversify our culture, contribute to our social vitality.

Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa
We are very pleased to have done the “Opportunity Cost of Not Investing in Interpretation” report – it is so important to have clarity on these challenges and…

Hindia Mohamoud, Director, OLIP

Connecting Burundian Newcomers through WhatsApp

June 14, 2018

Justine Nkurunziza is an extraordinary woman. In her native Burundi, she was a human rights defender, especially for the rights of women and children. She also worked forAction Aid International in Burundi, before coming to Ottawa as a refugee in 2016. Justine has always had a driving passion to help others.

“When I arrived in Ottawa as a senior citizen, I found it was difficult to integrate,” she explains.  “I knew in my heart that I needed to take care of the younger ones who had immigrated from Burundi .” As she searches for a job and employment training, Justine keeps herself very busy as the leader of a network of Burundian newcomers.

Justine Semonde and Justine Nkurunziza

Justine formed a What’s App group with 252 members from the Burundian community living in the national capital region. Through her WhatsApp group, she exchanges information about settlement services, child care and public transit, along with news stories of interest to the Burundian community. The group also serves as a donation channel for newcomers to donate items which are then distributed to group members according to their need. The group communicates in both French and Kirundi.  “Those of us who are BBC (born before computers), really need this type of support,” chuckles Justine.

“Justine Nkurunziza is awesome,” says Justine Semonde, who arrived in Ottawa from Burundi in 2008. The two Justines had previously known each other in Burundi and met at their local church.  “When I told her I was looking for a job, she immediately wanted to help me. She added me the WhatsApp group. “She is sort of like a mother to all the group members. We rely on the crucial information in her WhatsApp group, everything from where to get a used TV, child’s car seat or microwave, to how to find a job in Canada.

“Thanks to Justine, I’m now connected to the Conseil Économique et Social d’Ottawa Carleton and the Vanier Community Service Centre Vanier, two organizations that are helping me with my job search,” explains Justine Semonde.  “I was very inspired by her activism in Burundi and her passion and energy in helping Burundian newcomers in our community. These are the reasons why I chose to nominate her as a Welcoming Ottawa Ambassador, an award she truly deserves.”

“I feel honoured to receive this award,” says Justine Nkurunziza as she smiles warmly. “I don’t think twice about helping others, it’s natural. I didn’t realize how much people appreciate my small gestures.“

“Justine is especially helpful to newcomers who have little or no information about life in Canada,” adds Justine Semonde. “She even acts as a mentor to the young Burundian newcomers, encouraging them to continue beyond high school. Justine represents the qualities of welcome, openness and generosity. She is such a jovial mother to us all!”